Late push not enough for Drexel in loss to Towson

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Towson forward Jerrelle Benimon had xx points and xx rebounds. (Photo: Josh Verlin)

Towson forward Jerrelle Benimon had 18 points and 16 rebounds. (Photo: Josh Verlin)

Josh Verlin (@jmverlin)

A furious comeback by Drexel fell just short as Frantz Massenat missed on two 3-point attempts in the final six seconds, allowing Towson to escape with a 69-66 win at the DAC on Saturday afternoon.

It looked like Towson  (7-8, 2-0 CAA) would roll early in the second half, holding the home team to under 30 percent from the floor over the opening 20 minutes and opening up a 19-point lead after the break, but this one would ultimately come down to the final few seconds.

Massenat (team-high 17 points) led Drexel’s first big push of the second half, hitting threes on consecutive possessions and then a layup that cut the lead to 10 with 6:12 to play. Hope finally emerged on the Drexel bench with 3:33 remaining when Damion Lee’s trey from the right corner cut the lead to six, at 58-52.

At the end, Towson did just enough to hang on.

“Any win on the road in this conference is a great win, obviously to win at Drexel…we’re fortunate to come out of here and beat a very good team,” Towson coach Pat Skerry said.

The CAA’s worst free-throw shooting team (62.2 percent entering the game) made 27-of-38 (71.1 percent) for the game, including a big pair by Mike Burwell with 21.7 seconds remaining to put his team up 69-64. Those came just seconds after Derrick Thomas had made it a one-possession game with a big trey from the right wing for Drexel (5-9, 1-1 CAA).

Lee would finish with 14 points before fouling out with 29 seconds remaining; he and Massenat would be joined in double figures by Thomas, who had a season high with 15 points.

Massenat then made two from the line to cut it back to a three-point game, and a Marcus Damas turnover on the inbounds play with seven seconds to go gave the Dragons one final chance. Massenat’s first game-tying attempt, from the left wing, was no good; Daryl McCoy (seven points, 11 rebounds) pulled in the miss and gave his point guard one more chance but the 30-foot heave was just off, hitting the right side of the rim.

“We didn’t deserve to make those shots,” Flint said. “We were awful today. You don’t deserve to win games like that if you don’t come ready to play. You don’t. I don’t care what anybody says. You come ready to play, you’re not in that situation. You don’t come ready to play, don’t get lucky. We didn’t deserve to win, that’s why it didn’t go in.”

It was Drexel’s first CAA regular-season loss since a 58-44 loss at Georgia State on Jan. 2, 2012, and their first home loss to Towson since Feb. 23, 2002. The Dragons had won their last seven games overall against the Tigers, dating back to a 73-62 loss in the first round of the 2009 CAA tournament.

Coming off a win at Georgia State on Jan. 2, Drexel had the chance to put their non-conference woes behind them and win consecutive games for the first time this season. Instead, it’s upstart Towson who’s 2-0 in league play a year after winning just a single game all season.

“Give Towson credit,” Flint said. “Guys played tough, they came ready, took advantage of what we gave them.”

One of the biggest reasons for Towson’s vast improvement has been Benimon, one of three D-I transfers eligible this season (along with Burwell and Bilal Dixon) who have helped the Tigers put last year’s 1-31 record well in the rearview mirror. Benimon, who left Georgetown after two seasons in which he averaged fewer than two points and two rebounds per game, had his eighth double-double of the season.

“Jerrelle’s obviously a very good player,” Skerry said about the 6-foot-8, 245-pound Warrenton (Va.) native. “He works incredibly hard, he’s tough, he’s physical, he has a lot of tools in the toolbox. He’s emerging as a leader for us every day and that’s the thing I’m probably most proud of.”

Damas, a junior wing, added 13 points and eight rebounds while guards Burwell and Jerome Hairston poured in 12 each.

The loss drops Drexel to 1-4 at the Daskalakis Athletic Center a year after they went 16-1 on their home court. Picked as the preseason CAA favorites before the season began, the Dragons have some serious issues to overcome if they still want to make a run at their first NCAA tournament since 1996.

“There’s a reason why we’re 5-9. Our focus isn’t there, guys don’t come ready to play. We’re 1-4 at home, we think we’re gonna show up and beat people–we’re fooling ourselves. You can break down shot selection, you can break down whatever you want, it’s about bringing your body here and doing what you’re supposed to do, and we haven’t done that all season,” Flint said.

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